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Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview and Game Day Thread: Time to get to work

We’re into the bulk of the season now

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning GAME NINE

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NHL Network, NBCSWA,BSSUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Japers’ Rink

What a difference a couple of wins make, right? Around this time last week things seemed a little more dire as the Tampa Bay Lightning had just dropped their third straight game and the offense seemed flummoxed having combined for just five goals in those three games (with three coming against Colorado in an overtime loss). Some reswiggled lines and a couple of 5-1 wins later things seem a little brighter.

Granted the wins came against a couple of teams struggling worse than the Lightning and the Bolts still haven’t made up much ground in the standings (the Panthers have lost more head coaches than they have games in regulation), but wins are wins and points are points. The best part of the last two games is that the Lightning seem to have figured out their line combinations for now. Oh, and Andrei Vasilevskiy has been Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Now, with the calendar turning to November, the real work of the season has begun. The pomp and circumstance of celebrating last season is long gone. The banner has been raised and the rings have been handed out. From here on out the focus for the team should be on the present and grinding out as many points they can.

We’ll see if their play really has improved over the last week as they have a bit of a juggernaut schedule over the next two weeks. Things kick off with Washington tonight, then Toronto, Ottawa (hey, they’re only three points behind the Lightning), Carolina, and then Florida. That’s a pretty good litmus test for where the Bolts are in their season at this point.

While the offense seems to have found their rhythm at even strength of late, they are still struggling on the power play with just one goal in their last eighteen opportunities. That just isn’t going to cut it at this level, especially against their upcoming competition. Tampa Bay is going to have to figure things out with the extra skater if they want to start picking up wins.

A positive trend overall is that they’ve finally remembered that they are indeed allowed to score first in a game and that has taken some, if not all, of the pressure off of their goaltenders to be perfect. Vasilevskiy has responded by being, well, almost perfect. He’s stopped 52 of the last 54 shots he’s faced and allowed just one even-strength goal. Vasy has also denied 11 of the 12 high-danger shots he’s faced, with that lone goal coming on a 6-on-5 situation late in the Pittsburgh game.

The Bolts are going to need him to stay hot as the Capitals continue their robust start to the season. They have yet to lose in regulation and their 3.75 goals per game ranks 5th in the league. Alex Ovechkin, the ageless one, is leading the way with 15 points (9 goals, 6 assists) with 10 of those points coming at even strength. So, he’s not just relying on the power play to prop up his stats (although his 25% shooting rate might indicate he’s due to cool off).

He’ll also be hunting for his 50th career goal against the Lightning. Since his debut they have been one of his favorite teams to play having posted 92 points (49 goals, 43 assists) in his career. The 49 tallies are the most he has scored against any franchise, so that’s a fun little stat.

Recently the Caps have been really, really good on the road. Since the 2014-15 season they are tops in the NHL on the road with a .643 points percentage (159-82-28). At Amalie Arena they’ve posted an all-time record of 31-20-1. Thanks to the quirky schedule over the last few seasons, the Lightning haven’t actually beat the Capitals at home since March 16, 2019 (Alex Killorn hat trick alert!)

Adding to the difficulties for the Lightning, they might be a little banged up for this contest. Nikita Kucherov and Zach Bogosian are definitely out of the line-up. A rather painful practice on Sunday saw Erik Cernak miss some time after blocking a shot with his knee and Boris Katchouk left midway through without returning. Steven Stamkos was held out for a “maintenance day” but Coach Cooper was less than 100% positive that he’ll play tonight telling reporters “I sure hope so” when asked if The Captain would be in the line-up.

As a precaution, the Lightning recalled veteran forward Gabriel Dumont Monday morning.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

Forwards

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Anthony Cirelli

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos (?) - Mathieu Joseph

Patrick Maroon - Ross Colton - Corey Perry

Alex Barre-Boulet - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -Taylor Raddysh

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak (?)

Mikhail Sergachev - Andrej Sustr

Goaltender

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Washington Capitals Lines

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson

Anthony Mantha - Connor McMichael - Daniel Sprong

Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Garnet Hathaway

Brett Leason - Hendrix Lapierre - Conor Sheary

Defense

Martin Fehervary - John Carlson

Dmitri Orlov - Nick Jensen

Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Justin Schultz

Goaltender

Vitek Vanecek

All lines based off of dailyfaceoff.com predictions. We will update with any info we receive.